Arts and Culture / News

Theater professor shares New York experience with students

Allison Horsley, an assistant professor of theater at DU, recently finished work on Buddy’s Tavern during its developmental workshop in New York.

It’s one of many ways Horsley keeps her dramaturgy skills up-to-date and offers her students real-life teaching moments.

“We learn by doing, and for me, being inside the creative process of a new play or musical brings my attention back to what it takes to make a solid play or musical, and therefore I am better equipped to analyze and discuss plays that are established in the canon,” Horsley says. “Working on new plays and musicals helps me to be a better teacher of dramatic literature.”

Horsley served as an in-residence dramaturg for the O’Neill Music Theater Conference in Waterford, Conn., this past summer. One of the projects she worked on was development of Tavern, a musical adaptation of the film Two Family House. The musical’s creative team invited Horsley to continue her role in New York.

The play is in the workshop process, which means the several readings are held in hopes of generating interest with prospective producers. It was Horsley’s job to help develop the play from the film and conduct any research needed. For this play, she discovered what Staten Island in the 1950s was like.

“Allison was also an invaluable source for me with the research needed to make this piece come to life,” says Director Warren Carlyle. “She was able to ask all the right questions without imposing her own point of view on the piece. Like a good therapist or a good director, she asked the right questions and let the creatives solve them.”

While the team waits to hear if a producer will pick up the musical, Horsley takes the experience straight into the classroom.

“I have spent a lot of time looking at why the film succeeds as a film and what we need to capture from the film to make it into a successful musical,” she says. “This is the type of information I can bring into my playwriting and dramatic literature classes and in discussions with our theater students when we talk about what it takes to bring a story to life onstage.”

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